public interest law

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public interest law

Postby juliap » Thu Aug 30, 2012 3:12 am

Any suggestions for prospective law students who aren't in it for high salaries but want to work on social justice issues? I would love to be at a public interest law firm or a non-profit. Specifically, I'm interested in criminal justice policy, drug law reform, and prisoner rights. I graduated from a pretty good school, American University, with a 3.5 gpa, a law & society/philosophy double major, and strong extracurriculars. I haven't done any LSAT prep but I scored 160 on the 2007 demo and I'm sure I could bump it up with practice.

Should I reach for a higher ranked school or should I go for a cheaper school that will give me the JD without the massive debt? I'm thinking about going back to Massachusetts for school, and I see northeastern is into public interest law, but they have a pretty high tuition for grads who are going on to make public interest salaries. I'd love to hear any input from students or JDs who are into public interest law or know people who have tried to go down that path.

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Re: public interest law

Postby bk1 » Thu Aug 30, 2012 3:31 am

A few things:

1. Almost all scholarships in law school are merit based. Hypothetically if you got a 160 and had a 3.5 GPA, you would not be paying full tuition at a school Northeastern.

2. Even if you were to pay full tuition, look into the LRAP programs that top schools offer and the IBR program that is offered by the federal government.

3. Don't trust specialty rankings that say a school is good for PI.

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Re: public interest law

Postby Ti Malice » Sun Sep 02, 2012 11:08 am

This conversation will be far more worthwhile when you have an actual LSAT score. If you scored 160 on a cold diagnostic, there really should be no reason that you can't eventually score above 170 with proper study. With a 3.5 and a score of 172 or higher, you would be looking at strong to very strong odds of admission to NYU, possible money in the lower T14, and full-ride scholarships to some other Tier 1 schools.

You should certainly aim much higher than Northeastern. PI jobs are very difficult to come by in this economy, and PI hiring can be every bit as prestige-focused as BigLaw hiring. Northeastern does have a strong PI culture, but it also has terrible employment statistics, high tuition/cost of attendance, and is very stingy with scholarships.

Study up and rock the LSAT, and then let's discuss your likely options.

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Re: public interest law

Postby locthebloke » Mon Sep 03, 2012 4:04 pm

You have the wrong mindset entirely. If you are considering law school, you need to be aiming for the best school possible with the most money possible. Period. Northeastern University is not a good school, and you will not find meaningful full time work with a JD from it. It is in the same market as Harvard, which needs no introduction, as well as BU and Boston College, both of which hover around the top 25. This is your competition for the scant number of jobs there are.

Please educate yourself about how perilous legal education can be, and how crooked the law school industry is. Ignore Northeastern's glossy pamphlets and website. They are using duplicitous employment and salary statistics to lure you in. They don't care that there's like 45000 new JDs every year and only 25000 new law jobs available in a given year. They just want your money.

Did you know that if you're employed as a Cashier at Sam's Club after you graduate, the schools will list you as having employment in "Business and Industry?"

Public service jobs are extremely competitive. Up there with Biglaw jobs. One, because the legal market is so bad that people want anything, even if the pay is low, and also, because legal public servants have the possibility of getting the remainder of their loans forgiven after 10 years.

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Re: public interest law

Postby uieLouAy » Mon Oct 07, 2013 12:03 pm

Was hoping to revive this thread. Like the OP I want to pursue something in criminal justice/drug policy reform, and my dream job (as of right now) would be working for the Brennan Center for Justice. I'm currently a senior and plan on taking at least a year off so I have ample time to prep for the LSAT (T14 or bust!). My question is, what are some other non-profits out there that advocate for similar causes? I know there are rankings for top law firms but I haven't been able to find anything similar in the realm of social justice.

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Re: public interest law

Postby Paul Campos » Mon Oct 07, 2013 1:42 pm

Total number of graduates who obtained jobs with public interest law firms in each national graduating class:

2008: 94

2009: 98

2010: Unknown

2011: 130

2012: 100

Source: NALP Annual Report

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Re: public interest law

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Mon Oct 07, 2013 1:46 pm

What on earth is a public interest law firm? That sounds like an oxymoron.

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Re: public interest law

Postby bk1 » Mon Oct 07, 2013 1:47 pm

A. Nony Mouse wrote:What on earth is a public interest law firm? That sounds like an oxymoron. ... _Firms.pdf

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Re: public interest law

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Mon Oct 07, 2013 1:50 pm

Thanks. I think the numbers of people who got jobs with public interest firms reporting to NALP is going to significantly underreport numbers of people who actually go into public interest work (depending how you want to define that).

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Re: public interest law

Postby dixiecupdrinking » Mon Oct 07, 2013 8:15 pm

The fact of the matter is these jobs are very, very difficult to get. They're much harder to come by than biglaw jobs. Don't fall into thinking that just because you're willing to work for a fraction of the salary at a big firm, you'll be able to do it. The job pays 4 times less yet there are probably four times as many applicants per position.

The path is something like: 1) get into a top school, preferably T10; 2) do really well; 3) get as much relevant experience and demonstrated interest as you can; 4) apply for and get a fellowship after graduation. Alternatively, go to a respected regional school on a full ride, preferably a scholarship that includes some programming and mentoring in the area you're interested in, and then follow steps 2 through 4 above. Even if you do everything right, it's not a guarantee.

You have to really, really want to do something really, really specific, which genuinely requires a law degree, to make it worthwhile. For a certain group of people it's the right path because it's the only path, and you can certainly be successful if you're one of them. But I would seriously explore other avenues first. For instance, working on "criminal justice policy, drug law reform, and prisoner rights" does not necessarily mean being a lawyer. You can work for a think tank, you can be a case worker, you can do lobbying work....

A JD doesn't always do what you think it will do, and it isn't always necessary for what you want to accomplish. Don't just chase the credential.

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Re: public interest law

Postby BeautifulSW » Wed Oct 09, 2013 12:58 pm

If the OP's interest is in policy reform, a relevant Ph.D. is a much better approach than a J.D.

-A Ph.D. can be fully funded.

-A Ph.D. learns the craft of research and academic publishing.

-A Ph.D. qualifies the holder as a principal investigator who is eligible to receive grant money for research projects.

-A J.D. gets to take the Bar and represent people or train other J.D. students. That's about it.

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